Man who posed as NEA officer to commit robbery given jail and caning

Nigel Chin
(Photo: Getty images)

He was part of a five-member gang who posed as National Environment Agency (NEA) officers on a mosquito-fogging job to commit a robbery in 2010, stealing more than $112,000.

Facing charges and possible jail time, he escaped to Batam illegally where he stayed for six years and started a family. But the law finally caught up with him when Indonesian police arrested him for overstaying at the start of 2017 and deported him back to Singapore in April.

Khoo Wei Chyi, a 42-year-old Singaporean, was sentenced to four years and six months’ jail and given six strokes of the cane for his role in the robbery, as well as three months’ jail for leaving Singapore illegally after pleading guilty at the State Courts on Tuesday (7 November). District Judge Hamidah Ibrahim, who presided over the case, ordered both sentences to run consecutively.

The court heard that Khoo, along with accomplices Ong Bee Han, Ong Chye Kwee, Low Soon Kwee and Tay Chuan Bock, robbed a house at Pavilion Rise in Bukit Batok at about 12.50pm on 22 September 2010.

They entered the house on the pretext of checking the house for mosquitos. Posing as NEA officers, they wore surgical masks, gloves and suits, and had a fogging machine with them. The house was targeted because Ong Bee Han and Low heard that the male owner of the house was a big boss who kept a lot of money in various safes at their house, Deputy Public Prosecutor Amanda Sum said.

During the robbery, they tied up the owner’s daughter, who was only nine then, and their maid with cable ties and stuck a piece of duct tape over their mouths. The female owner was held at knifepoint and forced to reveal where their valuables are.

The group also used crow bars, a power drill and screw drivers to force open two safes. The total value of items stolen from the house amounted to S$112,791.94, including cash in various currencies amounting to S$106,556.36. Khoo received $18,000 for his part in the robbery, which he spent on gambling and repaying his debts.

While facing charges in July 2011, Khoo fled the country even though his passport was impounded. He paid $5000 to a person known as ‘Ah Wen’ to make preparations for him to leave the country. In the first week of July 2011, he departed Singapore from an unknown shoreline by hiding in a luggage.

Khoo’s lawyer, Alice Tan, told the court that he had “moved on” with life while in Batam and got married during his six years there. Khoo, who has kids from a failed marriage in Singapore, also has a two-year-old son in Batam.

However, DJ Hamidah said that it is impossible for Khoo to move on with life given that he is a wanted man in Singapore, and it is impossible for the court to give leeway to Khoo just because he has kids.

The prosecution pushed for a sentence of at least four years and six months’ jail and six strokes of the cane. DPP Sum said a deterrent effect is needed, given that Khoo is the only one among the group of five who absconded to Batam. Khoo’s accomplices had been dealt with by the court previously.

DPP Sum also pointed out that it is not Khoo’s first time committing robbery. In 1996, Khoo was given three years and six months’ jail, as well as 12 strokes of the cane for a similar offence. Tan argued that the offence in 1996 had happened some time ago but DJ Hamidah replied that it wasn’t that far apart from the later offence in 2010.

For committing robbery during daylight, Khoo could be jailed up to 10 years and given at least six strokes of the cane. For leaving Singapore illegally, he could be jailed up to six years and fined up to $2,000.